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The government has improved the volume and range of information released by local and central government, but needs to do much more to make sure that the data is easily understood, according to MPs.
A report from the public accounts committee, Implementing the transparency agenda warns that it ‘does not help’ the government’s objectives when large quantities of raw data are released without ensuring that the data is fit for purpose and that the information is ‘accessible, relevant and easy to understand’.
The report says that some data, notably on local government spending, is ‘very difficult to interpret’, and not presented on a consistent basis, adding that ‘there are important gaps in information, such as incomplete price and performance information on adult social care’. This makes it hard for the public to use the information to make comparisons and exercise choice, as was originally intended.
Margaret Hodge MP, chair of the committee of public accounts, said: ‘We must be able to follow the taxpayers’ pound wherever it is spent’. Hodge raised particular concerns over the potential for private providers to hide behind ‘commercial confidentiality’ to block the disclosure of relevant information.
Hodge also said that the government had not yet developed a full understanding of the costs and benefits of making information transparent, and so decisions on what data to make available and in what form are not yet guided by value for money considerations.’
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